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(Credit: Alamy)


Hear Jimmy Chamberlain’s isolated drums on Smashing Pumpkins song ‘Cherub Rock’


Rock and roll drumming got a necessary revival during the 1990s. After a full decade of electronic drum machines and sequencers taking over the musical world, new figures like Dave Grohl and Matt Cameron arrived to bring back hard-hitting rhythms, crashing cymbals, and gigantic booming bass drums. Natural sounds were once again en vogue, and recording studios like Sound City in California and Electrical Audio in Chicago became coveted for their drum rooms.

But it was Jimmy Chamberlain from The Smashing Pumpkins who elevated rock drumming to a new level during the alternative rock boom of the ‘90s. Relying on his background as a jazz player, Chamberlain brought an additional layer of technical skill and precision to the loud and boisterous drum sounds of the time. Capable of bashing just as hard as his contemporaries, Chamberlain also had a light touch and rudimentary mastery that few could match.

Perhaps the greatest example of his unique style comes from the Siamese Dream cut ‘Cherub Rock’. Opening with Chamberlain’s drum roll on his snare, the song proceeds to build to a crescendo before diving headfirst into the verse. Chamberlain’s drums provide the dynamics, going from ride cymbals to crash cymbals to china cymbals with ever-increasing intensity. Even though his fills are relatively few and far between on ‘Cherub Rock’, it’s his rock-solid rhythm contrasting with his ghost notes and variety of small eccentricities that make this drum track so unique.

The drum track for ‘Cherub Rock’ is one of the most notorious in the entire Smashing Pumpkins catalogue. That’s because Chamberlain was notoriously wayward during the sessions for Siamese Dream, often leaving the studio for days on end to go on drug binges without the band knowing where he was. Although he managed to retain his unmatched touch on the drum kit, his lack of reliability frustrated Billy Corgan.

So Corgan laid the hammer down by allegedly forcing Chamberlain to play the drum part to ‘Cherub Rock’ over and over until his hands bled. Since the song featured some of the most intense playing in the Pumpkins’ entire career, Chamberlain had to labour endlessly on a quest to impress Corgan, when in reality, the drum track had already been laid down. Corgan simply wanted to send a message, and that message was scrawled in blood. Still, it’s hard to argue against the results, which very well may represent Chamberlain’s apex.

Check out the isolated drum track for ‘Cherub Rock’ down below.